Communications of the Association for Information Systems


This paper distinguishes and discusses three strategies for theory building in Information Systems (IS) - inductive empiricism, theory specialization and scientific idealization - and contrasts them in terms of three desiderata of theories - realism, generality and precision - and tradeoffs between them. Inductive empiricism, emphasizing realism and generality, represents the received view with the classic Grounded Theory Methodology as a prime example. The paper argues for openness to theory specialization in practical disciplines such as IS. Theory specialization implies sacrificing generality of theories for their realism and precision. The distinctive attention of the paper lies in scientific idealization, sacrificing realism of theories for their precision and generality. It has been almost completely omitted in in the literature on IS theory building. The special focus of the paper lies in IT applications as a category of IT artifacts and in design-oriented theories which provide knowledge of how to design “better” IT applications. The paper illustrates its points using TAM/UTAUT research as an example.



When commenting on articles, please be friendly, welcoming, respectful and abide by the AIS eLibrary Discussion Thread Code of Conduct posted here.